Chemical-laden products banned by other nations are sold throughout the U.S.
To protect their citizens from dangerous chemicals, the European Union, Japan, and other nations have tightened their environmental standards for hundreds of manufactured products in recent years. Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA hasn’t restricted any industrial compounds since an unsuccessful attempt to ban asbestos 18 years ago, and Americans continue to be sold products that wouldn’t pass muster in many other parts of the world — wood, toys, electronics, and cosmetics containing chemicals that raise the risk of cancer, disrupt hormonal systems, or cause reproductive or neurological damage. Michael Wilson, a professor of occupational and environmental health, says the U.S. has become a “dumping ground” for goods unwanted elsewhere. Take plywood, for example. Last year, China exported more than half a billion dollars worth of hardwood plywood to the U.S., enough to build cabinets for 2 million kitchens; most of it was so heavily tainted with formaldehyde that it couldn’t even legally be sold in China, let alone in Europe or Japan.